Review: ‘The Human Experiment’ misses a few crucial steps


Narrated by Sean Penn, the documentary “The Human Experiment” alleges a correlation between four decades of increased chemical use in the United States and health issues such as cancer, miscarriage, autism and birth defects.

The film also contends that the American Chemistry Council lobbies for a $720-billion-a-year industry that has politicians in its pocket and sabotages attempts at passing regulatory legislation.

“The Human Experiment” is that rare advocacy documentary that actually lines up legitimate medical and academic experts, who opine authoritatively in their respective specialties. Still, co-directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy haven’t attributed all of their facts and figures, hence the proverbial grain of salt.


The film’s parade of activists also raises flags. Hannah Cary asserts that China is among the countries clamping down with better protections regarding chemical use. That would seem to require suspension of disbelief given reports of and questions about formaldehyde in laminated flooring, hydrogen sulfide-laced drywall, tainted baby formula and air pollution in China.

Nachman and Hardy followed the laborious fertility treatment of one woman, Jenn Canvasser, and her deeply personal account proves powerful. But the filmmakers didn’t speak to her again until after the death of her son Micah, inexplicably skipping her pregnancy entirely. It’s one element of the film that just doesn’t add up.


“The Human Experiment”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills. Also on VOD.